RSM Bird Cameron urges employers to think strategically about the employment levels needed to sustain and grow business

February 27, 2012RSM Bird Cameron, one of the largest mid-tier accounting firms in Australia, urges business owners to think strategically about employment levels as Australia experiences the worst downfall in employment since 1992, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics recording more than 29,000 jobs lost during December 2011.

Andrew Graham, national head of business solutions, RSM Bird Cameron said, “It is important for employers to remember that scaling back on jobs in the first instance can sometimes cause more harm than good for business in the long term so a balanced approach is required.

“Businesses need to find a way to operate efficiently and effectively and part of this is assessing the staffing structure to ensure the best results are achieved. It is about making sure the right people are in the right job at the right time to drive productivity improvement.

“With respect to companies slashing jobs, it can be difficult for business to maintain the level of service that is expected by customers, which can sometimes put the business at further risk. While other employees can take on the extra load, this is often not sustainable in the long term and can result in issues with staff satisfaction and burn out.”

RSM Bird Cameron is urging employers to look at ways to improve efficiency, strengthen and grow their business before cutting jobs instead of reacting to market uncertainty. The following strategies can help business owners improve performance:

* Improve efficiency
It’s not only staff expenses and overheads that add to a business’s cost structure. The configuration of activities and how things are done in a business along with the processes used can add additional layers of inefficiency (waste) and cost to the business. RSM Bird Cameron suggests that this waste needs to be identified and removed from the business as a first step before actively looking to reduce head count.

* Improve management of credit facilities
Business owners should consider their current level of financing and the possible need for further debt financing in the future. Securing new debt facilities or re-financing existing loans has become increasingly difficult. Get to know your bank and give them plenty of notice if you’re in need of increased debt funding.

* Increase management of cash flow
Management of cash flow is of the utmost importance and a key indicator of business health. While profitability is important, it is cash that determines a business’s survival. Also, look at management of inventory levels as you will be surprised how much cash can get tied up in stock.

* Review customer and supplier relationships
In economic uncertainty or recovery, customers are likely to pay their bills more slowly and the liquidity of a business can be negatively affected very rapidly. Businesses who rely on only a small number of customers may find themselves at risk if one of their key customers falls into financial trouble. Make a list of your top five clients – these are the ones that are your biggest exposure and make sure you are happy with providing them credit.

* Check that your new customers are financially healthy
Business owners should be screening new customers very carefully and being selective of those customers who are offered credit terms. Any terms of trade should be formalised with customers. Actively follow up all debtors, formally negotiate your credit terms, ensure invoices are sent out to customers quickly and consider offering discounts to customers who pay promptly.

* Bargain with suppliers
Negotiate your credit terms and consider taking advantage of any discounts on offer. Most suppliers will be eager to be paid promptly and ‘cashed up’ businesses have the opportunity to take advantage of this by receiving discounts for prompt payment of invoices.

* Improve profit
There are always ways to improve the financial state of your business. For instance, increase the number of customers buying from you, increase the number of times customers buy from you, increase the amount customers spend with you and improve the gross margin on each sale.

* Lead your team and manage stress
A lot of workplace stress is subjective and can be a result of how the person perceives what is happening. Stress can be caused by lack of communication, poor air quality, poor lighting, high noise levels and poorly designed and uncomfortable office furniture. If the workplace is depressing your employees, change it. This is likely to increase productivity and reduce absenteeism.

“Instead of seeing the current economic uncertainty as a challenge, take this as a unique opportunity for your business to identify and drive new opportunities and find the best way to develop and grow your business,” Graham said.


About RSM Bird Cameron
RSM Bird Cameron is the largest mid-tier accounting firm in Australia with national ownership and profit sharing and offers a full range of specialist advisory services, including business consulting and advisory, assurance and advisory, taxation consulting, corporate consulting and turnaround and insolvency. RSM Bird Cameron is a core member firm of RSM International, the sixth largest network of independent accounting and consulting firms in the world.